Speed Reads

Strange Bedfellows

Iran dumps Iraq's Maliki, effectively derailing his fight to stay in power

On Tuesday, Iran endorsed Haider al-Abadi (pictured) as Iraq's next prime minister, dealing a decisive blow against incumbent Nouri al-Maliki's fierce fight to stay on for a second term. Iran, which wields a lot of political influence in post-Saddam Iraq, had previously supported Maliki, along with its Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, which also backed Abadi on Tuesday.

Iran's effective disavowal of Maliki followed word earlier Tuesday that an important Iraqi Army general in Baghdad had told Abadi and President Fuad Masum that the military would not side with Maliki. Maliki didn't need a weatherman to know which way the wind was blowing, and his office later released a statement asking the military to stay out of the political wrangling. He is now negotiating the terms of his political surrender, The New York Times reports, demanding immunity from prosecution and a government security detail.

Maliki will remain prime minister at least until Abadi forms a new government, a feat he has to accomplish within 30 days. He has already locked up 127 votes from fellow Shiite politicians, out of 165 needed to approve his government, and both Kurdish and Sunni blocs have signaled their support. The Sunni support hinges on Abadi's promise to roll back some of the divisive laws passed under Maliki that alienated Sunnis, some of whom turned to back the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria insurgency.

Maliki's anti-Sunni policies are a large reason he lost the support of the U.S., and the ISIS sweep through large swaths of the country eroded his support from his other key backers.